Let us begin with the definition of the indirect rule system.
What is The Definition of Indirect Rule?
Indirect rule is a system of administration used by the British colonial government to govern people of their colonies through the use of traditional rulers and traditional political institutions.
Indirect Rule In Nigeria
The indirect rule system was introduced to Nigeria by Lord Frederick Lugard. British colonial officials in Nigeria formulated and enforced policies & laws through the traditional rulers who only served as intermediaries between the people and the British government.
However, the cultures and traditions of the people were respected and retained by the British authorities in order to make them more acceptable by the people. The system worked out well due to the cooperation of the traditional chiefs who claimed that since their cultures and traditions were respected, they have no problem dealing with the British officials, but this was to some extent.
Indirect Rule in Northern Nigeria
The Northern protectorate of Nigeria was divided into six provinces under a British official known as ‘Resident’. The provinces were then sub-divided into districts which was also headed by an official known as the district commissioner.
Was Indirect Rule Successful in Northern Nigeria?
The system was highly successful due to the structure of their pre-colonial political administration which was highly centralized and the existence of taxation system before the advent of the British.
Did Indirect Rule Succeed In Eastern Nigeria?
No! The system was indeed a huge failure in the eastern part of Nigeria unlike in Northern Nigeria where it was a success.
The main reasons why indirect rule failed in eastern Nigeria include the Igbo’s decentralized pre-colonial political system and the introduction of the warrant chiefs who met the wrath of the Igbo people (easterners). The warrant chiefs were ruthless and high-handed in the process of executing their duties.
When the taxation system was introduced to eastern Nigeria, the way it was man-handled by the warrant chiefs brought about the fear of women paying tax which later culminated in the Aba women riot of 1929.
Indirect Rule in Western Nigeria
It should be noted that the system was partially successful in the western part of Nigeria due to the check and balance system that existed in their pre-colonial political system.
Later on, educated Nigerian elites began to oppose the indirect rule for some reasons. They claimed that the British administration purposely used the uneducated traditional rulers who cannot question or oppose any decision made by the British officials while the educated elites were not recognized and therefore can’t be involved in the administration.
As a result of this, nationalism sprang up among Nigerians and the demand for the liberation of the country was accelerated. Prominent figures like Herbert Macaulay, known as the father of nationalism, led campaigns against the British colonial government demanding the independence of the country which was later granted on the 1st of October 1960.
Factors Responsible for the introduction of Indirect Rule System in Nigeria?
The British colonial government adopted this system due to the dearth of British personnel and insufficient funds and also did the success of this system in other countries like India triggered its introduction to Nigeria.
Other reasons/factors are language barrier, poor climate, selfish interest, i.e satisfaction of Britain’s economic needs, and so on.
The system was considered by some Nigerians as the path to political freedom and stability of Nigeria while others see it only as a means of exploiting the nation.
- Michael Crowder. IndirectRule: French and British Style. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 34, No. 3. (Jul., 1964), pp. 197–205.
- England’s Indirect Rule in Its African Colonies- American Historical Association
- Pre-colonial system in Igbo land – Teslim O. Omipidan